Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Trailer Making

I have been working on a book trailer for my new fantasy novel, The Light Heart of Stone.

If you haven’t come across book trailers before, you might like to have a quick look at a few examples:
Stunningly beautiful – the New Zealand Book Council’s trailer for Going West by Maurice Gee
Great fun – 13 Words by Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman
Simple but effective – Alison Goodman’s trailer for Eon and Eona;
Movie-like –The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
Author focused – Machine Man by Max Barry
And then there are plenty of others that are awkwardly amateur, which I’m sure you can find without any help from me.

My focus has been to create a no cost trailer that is not awkwardly amateur.

I have been building the trailer using photographs and freehand drawings, which I have assembled using free software – Photo Story 3 for Windows and Windows Movie Maker (not the Live version). I created three scenes for my book trailer by combining the drawings and photos in Photo Story.

Photo Story has a good zooming and panning features, giving the illusion of movement (take another look at Alison Goodman’s trailer to see what I mean). I imported my three scenes – in effect mini movies – into Movie Maker, which seems to have more options than Photo Story for adding audio and controlling the output of the final trailer.

I did much of this preliminary work while Will and I were in Spain so the photos are all Spanish and feature a cork tree from Extremadura (above) and various images from Catalonia. I assembled a rough version of the trailer while we were in Cadaques. The resulting trailer worked reasonably well but I found that the photos and freehand drawings didn’t connect well with the artwork on The Light Heart of Stone’s cover.

The cover artwork was created in Corel Draw and has a coloured and stylised, almost cartoon-like, feel; the trailer, even though it contains drawings, felt far too real.

And the solution…? I think the solution involves creating some digital artwork to link each scene and the cover. I hope the new artwork will marry the real and the unreal elements in the trailer, but I have to admit that I have broken my “no cost trailer” rule by buying a Wacom Bamboo drawing tablet.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Search for the Perfect Book Printer

A surfeit of me
One of the nice things about being published by a mainstream publishing house is that the marketing and publicity department take some of the responsibility for promoting you and your writing. In reality, you still have to do your fair share of self-promotion and you often have to have a crack at your own bio copy, but you don’t have to initiate and write every single thing – making yourself cringe at the brazen, self-serving nature of the task…

…And who are we actually talking about with all this ‘you’ business? Well, me… again.

For god’s sake, let’s change the subject. Please Blog, take me somewhere else!

Design and Typesetting
A couple of weeks ago, Josh Durham finished the design for the interior of my new fantasy novel, The Light Heart of Stone, which then went to Graeme Jones of Kirby Jones for typesetting. Then a few days later, Graeme sent me the galleys.

Seeing the galleys was so exciting. For the first time in this self-publishing process I could see my text looking the way it is going to look when printed. It is an amazing thrill. Josh and Graeme have done a superb job. The quality of their work made me glad I invested in industry professionals. I stood there, looking at the galleys and I realised that I am really enjoying myself – notwithstanding my complaints about having to write my own promotional material.
Some slightly fuzzy jpeg conversions of the PDF galleys - but you get the idea

These are some of the things I learned from Josh and Graeme:
1 The book designer designs a template for the text and then the typesetter places the text into that template and manages its flow.
2 A dinkus is the little decorative flourish that divides sections of text.
3 A Microsoft Tag in your book is a barcode that can be scanned by readers’ phones, taking them directly to your online content.
4 The Light Heart of Stone is going to be 640 pages long… well, it is a fantasy novel.

Not long after learning about Microsoft Tags from Graeme Jones, I read an article by Malcolm Knox in Australian Author about people going into bookstores, taking photos of the books they are interested in and then going home and buying them online. It made me realise that if you want to have your book on bookshop shelves and you have something like a Microsoft Tag, then, at the very least, you have to be careful that your website doesn’t undermine those shelves.

With the galleys in hand and a firm page count, I was able to get some accurate quotes from potential printers.

I have tried to keep an open mind about who should print my book and what is the best printing model on offer. It used to be the case that the printer was the printer and that was that. Now, the printer can be a quasi-publisher who fronts the on demand printing costs, offers you a 10% royalty, and has a deal with a distributer. Then there are printers who offer you some distribution services. Beyond that, there are printers who will fulfil your orders in a way that makes it appear that you have dispatched the book yourself and who only print your book after someone has ordered a copy. And, of course, there are printers who simply print books.

I am extremely wary of the quasi-publisher printer. While a painless deal involving no upfront capital, sounds good it shouldn’t be confused with a real publishing deal. A mainstream publisher brings their brand, a workforce with diverse specialisations, strong business-to-business relationships, as well as capital to their deal with the author. A quasi-publisher printer doesn’t have any brand muscle and is unlikely to have specialised editorial, book design, marketing, and publicity skills. Even so, I had to ask myself whether the model had advantages for me. I decided the answer was no.

When I decided to self-publish, I decided to publish as a commercial, independent publisher who would have to meet industry standards in order to succeed. That meant investing money in editing and book design services, having a marketing plan and making a publicity plan. Having made those investments in time and money, it doesn’t make sense to step into an author-style, royalty deal just because it’s easy. As a commercial, independent publisher who is also the author of the book being published, I not only need to make a return as a writer, I also have to make my return as a publisher.

So that knocks out the printer-as-publisher model. I was left with the task of sorting through the rest.

As the quotes began to arrive I made an appointment to tour Lightning Source’s new print on demand facility in Melbourne. Lightning Source is a major print on demand player and has strong distribution arrangements. Unfortunately for me, a book that is 640 pages long isn’t viable as a print on demand publication, regardless of which POD printer you work with. I got quotes from several and the unit cost was so high that I would be selling at a loss if I sold online at a typical Amazon list price and I’d also sell at a loss if I had a distributor supplying bookstores. I could only make a positive return selling direct to readers, but who wants to rule out online and physical bookstores? Not me. But a plug for Lightning Source for anyone with a slim book. The staff members were really nice and have years of industry experience.

I realised I was going to have to go with a longer print run and an off-set printer. I settled on 1,000 books. I would prefer to print 200, but the numbers only begin to work with 1,000. I had a couple of quotes from off-set printers in Australia. Their prices were significantly lower than the POD prices, but were still too high to be viable (note to self: write shorter books). The result is that I’m going to have the Light Heart of Stone printed overseas after finding a company, Everbest, with a really helpful and patient sales representative based in Sydney.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Marketing, Emerging Writers’ Festival, Publishers, and THE COVER

Marketing Plan #1 Gets Some Adjustment
When Velislav Georgiev and I began making public sculpture at the end of the 90s, we got our first break by joining forces with another artist, Annee Miron. Together, we could offer project management (me) and good art (Annee and Velislav). Within a couple of months, we won the contract to create sculpture for the new landscape at the Middle Brighton Baths in Melbourne – our first gig.

Marquette for Swimming Between Buoys, Annee Miron and Velislav Georgiev, 1999
 Clockwise: Small Buoy, Swimmer (now decommissioned), Large Buoy, Wave Form bikerack, Swimming Between Buoys, Annee Miron and Velislav Georgiev, 2000

That idea of joining forces when you are facing something new or challenging really appeals to me. So my first plan for marketing my new fantasy novel The Light Heart of Stone was based on that concept.

Last year, our gallery, Omnibus Art Gallery, participated in an interesting multi-arts event called Ballan Feast, which comprised an exhibition, dinner in local restaurants, and a recital by Trio Anima Mundi. In a town of some 2,000 people, approximately 150 people attended the opening, some 95 ate dinner and about 160 attended the recital (walking from event to event). I thought it might be possible to add my fantasy novel into the mix and take the event on tour.

I spoke with the members of Trio and we decided to give Feast Victoria a go. As I began pitching the exhibition aspect to regional galleries, and came to understand more about their exhibition timetables, I soon realised the touring Feast project wasn’t going to provide an opportunity for local launches of The Light Heart of Stone. With the tour likely to run between 2013 and 2014, I had to adjust my thinking. I am now looking at Feast Victoria as an opportunity to run writing workshops that will be linked to the exhibition and recital and I am viewing those workshops as an opportunity to do follow-up promotion.

Marketing Plan #2, which is all about marketing in libraries, has become the focus for launching the novel.

Emerging Writers’ Festival
I have spent many days over the past fortnight at the Emerging Writers’ Festival. I haven’t been a huge fan of writing festivals in the past, but this was an eye-opening event, one not to be missed by any writer – regardless of experience.

The first surprise was the atmosphere. Writers can be competitive and ungenerous and, when they feel they haven’t achieved the success they think they deserve, bitter. Evidently, some sweeter, nicer breed of writer came to the EWF because both presenters and participants were friendly, inclusive, positive, and keen to chat.

The other surprise was the festival’s content. I went to the festival because I wanted to re-engage with the writing world after being away from it for some 15 years. I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did. Highlights included Writing iPhone apps with George Dunford, Transmedia with Matt Blackwood and Christy Dena, and listening to Julie Mac talk about RAGE A Sharpie's Journal Melbourne 1974-1980.

A Publisher in my Backyard
About a year ago, I joined the local Chamber of Commerce, never really expecting to meet anyone there from the publishing or visual arts industries. How wrong I was. At the most recent dinner, I met Brigid Cappello from Connor Court Publishing, a business operating from my hometown. We had a really animated discussion about e-books and digital publishing, with both of us feeling excited about opportunities to offer content in new formats and to connect directly with readers. In addition, to her publishing business, Brigid runs The Inspired Notebook, a blog-based bookstore.

Cover Developments
I have passed another milestone in the indie publishing process – Michele Winsor has finished developing the cover for my fantasy novel, The Light Heart of Stone.

The Light Heart of Stone - completed cover design
(Oak tree image derived from an image by Rachel Wintemberg, based on a photograph by William Henry Fox Talbot)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Borders bottoming out

I was in Melbourne today. Had lunch with a friend who works in a major publishing house. We didn't really talk about publishing, but the Borders demise was mentioned.

On the way home, I went to Borders in Highpoint. I bought $502.40 worth of books for $50.24. It felt uncomfortable. I felt a bit ashamed to be picking at Borders' carcass. Worse still, was the guilty feeling I had about buying books by two authors I love (Australia's amazing Margo Lanagan and Kelly Link) at 90% off the recommended retail price. Sorry Kelly! Sorry Margo!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Covers, speaking in public & the magic of Castlemaine

Design by Committee
The last two weeks have been filled with some amazing and fortuitous experiences. I drove to Castlemaine the week before last and stumbled across a really good book designer, Josh Durham of Design by Committee, who has agreed to design some templates for the interior of The Light Heart of Stone, my new fantasy novel.

The really amazing thing about finding Josh was that: a) I literally knocked on his door without knowing anything about the graphic designer within, only to discover he was a book designer; and b) one of the book covers that Michele and I had particularly admired, when we began discussing cover designs, turned out to be Josh’s design! (See the Hale & Hardy cover below)
Hale & Hardy by Paul Carter (Pan Macmillan Australia)

So, last week I sat down with Josh and we discussed my self-publishing project. I had the draft cover designs with me and showed them to him, along with some examples of fantasy book covers that I liked (so that he’d see what Michele and I were trying to achieve). I was pleased that Josh’s preferred cover was the cover Michele and I like best. I felt as though Michele and I were on the right track.

Our preferred cover design
(Oak tree image derived from an image by Rachel Wintemberg, based on a photograph by William Henry Fox Talbot)

Josh talked about the advantages of having a cover that brands the series, a cover that can be adapted to suit other volumes, which the preferred cover achieves. He encouraged us to play around with colour schemes – to consider something warmer and less stark. He also said that you need to be as careful with white covers as you are with black: they both damage easily.

Josh and I then spoke about the design for the interior and I learnt something in the process. I had thought that book designers designed the interiors of books and implemented those designs: inserting and managing the text, sorting out widows and orphans and rivers of white space. Josh had to explain to me that the text is dealt with by a typesetter, using templates created by the designer. For some reason, I thought typesetters had completely disappeared. I guess I was focusing on the original meaning of the name “typesetter” and not considering the specialised work that goes into managing text. I felt a bit stupid for not knowing, but “not knowing” is an inevitable experience if you are going to self-publish.

I asked Josh to design me a very simple, plain and readable interior and showed him my model book, Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares, which is beautifully designed and a real pleasure to hold and read.

Marketing in Libraries
About half an hour after meeting Josh, I walked into the Castlemaine Library to discuss the possibility of putting together some sort of promotional workshop program for The Light Heart of Stone. I came across Robyn Annear working on the loans desk. She is an author I admire and it was lovely speaking with someone so welcoming. She encouraged me to make a time to come in and discuss my ideas.

Public Speaking
The real problem with self-publishing doesn’t have much to do with editing, designing and printing your own book. The real problem involves distributing and selling your book. I haven’t yet tackled the problem of distribution, but I have been thinking about sales and about how vital public speaking and public readings are for any writer wanting to encourage readers to buy their book.

On Wednesday last week, I had the chance to speak at a regional Red Cross conference about my visual arts and writing projects. I talked about working full time as a writer, then giving it up to work in the visual arts, before returning to writing some ten years later.

I read a piece about family life and an extract from The Light Heart of Stone. I was nervous. I was worried that the piece of writing about family life was far too explicit given the age of the audience, but it was received with lots of laughter (as it was intended to be received). So speaking and reading ended up being a tremendously rewarding experience and it gave me the opportunity to begin collecting an email notification list for people who are interested in buying a copy of the novel when it comes out next year.

Remembering my mother and her mania for thanking people (thanks mum because that was a good thing to be manic about), I wrote to thank each person on the notification list and also wrote to the person who invited me to speak. And really, it seemed very natural to say thank you because it was a lovely experience, one that hope I get to repeat.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Novels Covers & Answering the Question: 'What's it about?'

'What's it about?'
Last post, I wrote about drafting a back cover blurb for my forthcoming fantasy novel, The Light Heart of Stone. The funny thing about back cover blurbs is that they tend to talk up a couple of opening incidents in the book, but don't really tell you what the story is all about.

When a friend posted that exact question, 'What's it about?' I opened up my files to cut and paste my existing synopsis, but found I didn't like it at all. I'm hoping this new version is does my story justice:

The Light Heart of Stone is a fantasy novel set in a speculative world and tells the story of the Stone Body, a continent on which plants and animals need human companions in order to thrive.

For more than one thousand years, the Companionaris and the Indidjinies have lived side-by-side on the Stone Body. The colonising Companionaris control the talent for growing plants and breeding animals. The colonised Indidjinies own the land. And so, it would seem, some sort of balance has been achieved. But what balance there is, is about to be shattered.

The story opens at a time when the companionship system is failing and vast areas of land have become barren, causing localised famine and fracturing relations between the two peoples. Crisis looms when someone begins murdering Indidjinies in a ruthless attempt to generate a renaissance of the companionship prowess.

There are three heroes in the novel. The youngest is an Indidjiny girl named Fox who is forcibly adopted into a Companionari family. The next, an Indidjiny rebel named Mica, believes he can hear the desires of stones and can find the meaning of events in the Indidjiny story-telling rituals. The last, the Oak Companion, heads the family that controls the continent's oak and cork trees.

These three overcome traditional enmities and personal wounds to uncover the killings. Together, they discover an old form of magic that has the potential to avert disaster and will certainly reshape relations between the Indidjinies and the Companionaris.

The speculative themes in The Light Heart of Stone reflect a number of contemporary Australian concerns, including the inherent risk of relying on finite resources for prosperity, the precarious nature of indigenous and non-indigenous relations, the possibility of revisiting historical narratives, the risks to agriculture posed by genetically modified flora and fauna, and the vulnerability of Australia's fragile biota.

Novel Covers
I've been incredibly lucky to have skilled help with some of the more specialised tasks that all self-publishers need to do. Helen Hunter has been working on the copy edit of my manuscript and Michele Winsor has been designing a cover for me. 

I suspect that getting the right cover is one of the most important tasks in publishing. If you are browsing in a bookstore, a good cover will prompt you to read the back cover blurb, which should then prompt you to buy the book. For a self-publisher like me, it can signal the difference between vanity publishing and commercial self-publishing. What's the difference between the two? Having readers and not having readers. In an interview with ABC's Jennifer Byrne, Lee Child said of any book, 'First it's written, then it's read, then it exists.' I agree. So, being read is incredibly important to me.

When Michele offered to help me with my cover, I decided to do some research so that I wouldn't waste her time being unclear about what I was after. I began the process by thinking about the work a book cover has to do.

The cover needs to attract your attention, tell you about the genre, and indicate whether the book is literary fiction or commercial fiction. It should also appeal the right age group and stand out from the crowd - without being unrecognisably avant garde. And if the book is going to be offered for sale as an e-book, the cover will need to be able to be 'read' as a black and white thumbnail on the small screen of a reader.

I began by looking at the books on my shelves, looking at my favourite novels and paying particular attention to the ones I'd first discovered because of their covers. I realised that my taste in art influences my reaction to covers and that I hate the awful covers many fantasy novels seem to have even though I'm a dedicated fantasy reader. Unfortunately, lots of fantasy novel covers are turgid, overdrawn, corny, and embarrassingly dramatic. There are too many long-haired warriors and maidens in misty, classical scenes. I knew I didn't want that sort of cover art, but I needed to be careful to ensure that fantasy readers would recognise my book as fantasy.

Next, I visited some book stores and talked with booksellers about covers.

There was the usual awful overwrought artwork in the fantasy/sci-fi section, but the shelves were also full of Eclipse look-alikes: black backgrounds with bright coloured text and bold, eye-catching images. The bookseller told me that bookstores hate these black background covers that have been so popular in the past few years. Apparently, large black areas print badly and damage easily and customers don't want to buy blemished books. No black backgrounds then...

The bookseller then showed some new editions of the Harry Potter and Eclipse series that had stark white backgrounds with bold and colourful cover art. The covers looked good, but we speculated that this stark whiter-than-white look could be dated by the time my novel was released.

Soon after my bookstore visits, Michele and I sat down and talked about covers, showing each other books we liked. I'm incredibly lucky that Michele and I have similar taste in covers and that Michele has read The Light Heart of Stone and loves the story - even though she isn't usually a fantasy reader. A shared understanding and sensibility meant that we also shared a language when talking about how to represent the characters and drama.

We decided to begin by focusing on some of the themes and imagery from the story and narrowed this down to: rocks and stones, handwork (sewing and embroidery), agriculture, oak and cork trees, and a fox (to represent one of the main characters who is named Fox).

There was one other aspect of book cover design I discussed with Michele: the size and position of my name. Last year, website designer Patrick Bonello suggested I watch Best Sellers and Blockbusters, an interview by Jennifer Byrne with a number of best-selling authors: Bryce Courtenay, Matthew Reilly, Di Morrissey and Lee Child. I was impressed with those writers' unabashed and serious approach to their commercial image. I decided then, that I would emulate their cover presentation by featuring my name as though my name was something to be proud of. I wanted to convey that I was willing to own my work - for good or for bad.

These are Michele's first draft designs, which feature the original novel title, which was The Oak Companion:
Concept 1 - Hiding a rock behind a lace handkerchief

Option 2 - Variation on Option 1

Option 3 - An oak tree on a stony ground

Option 4 - A fox in front of an oak tree

Option 5 - a darker version of Option 4

Option 6 - The sewing and embroidery theme

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Creating Back Cover Blurbs and Other Painfully Difficult Writing Tasks

I have been talking about writing the back cover blurb for my forthcoming fantasy novel, The Light Heart of Stone, for a number of weeks now – talking and not writing. There are some writing tasks that writers tend to avoid: writing synopses, writing publishing proposals, drafting back cover blurbs, and creating biographical ‘About the Author’ notes.

It’s not simply that it’s uncomfortable to try and generate glowing material about yourself and your writing, it is also a challenge to capture the most significant and exciting aspects of your text and your life and finding a style that’s appropriate to your genre.

When writing author bios some writers opt for the domestic, as in: Tor Roxburgh lives in a small country town with her partner and cat. Except, in my case, the cat died more than a year ago, so I won’t be writing that. Some lucky authors can recall readers to previous successes, as in: Tor Roxburgh’s previous novel Daytime Logic sold more than 1 million copies. It is another example that, with an eye on the truth, is not going to work in my case. I’m still drafting, but have tried to include something about my history as a writer, my geographical location (why?), and my other passion, which is art. The latest draft reads:
Tor Roxburgh lives and works in regional Victoria where she runs a gallery, paints, writes, and reads far too much fantasy and science fiction. Previously known for her non-fiction writing on social issues and her teen romance novels, Roxburgh gave up writing to run a public art practice with her partner Velislav Georgiev. The Light Heart of Stone signals her return to writing and is the first volume in the three-volume Promise of Stone series.

The back cover blurb, though, seems to be the most challenging marketing material to write. I have written them before. I remember working at Reed Books Australia and putting my hand up to write about 25 short blurbs for the marketing director who was heading to Frankfurt for the book fair. I hadn’t even read the books I was writing about and yet I found it incredibly easy to skim through them and churn out compelling text. However, when I sat down to write a blub for The Light Heart of Stone, it was as though I’d never done it before.

I spent a few days on the internet looking for samples and found a reasonably helpful article by Marilynn Byerly (whose books I’m completely unfamiliar with). I pulled a few novels from my bookshelf and ended up focusing on the blurb for Across the Nightingale Floor (episode 1) by Lian Hearn (pen name of Gillian Rubinstein), which is an excellent fantasy by an author I really admire. The back cover of Across the Nightingale Floor reads: 

The first episode in an epic literary adventure set in medieval Japan.
Sixteen-year-old Tomasu lives in a remote mountain village among the Hidden, a reclusive and spiritual people who have taught him only the ways of peace. But unbeknownst to him, his father was a celebrated assassin and a member of the Tribe, an ancient network of families with extraordinary preternatural skills. When Tomasu’s village is pillaged, he is rescued and adopted by the mysterious Lord Otori Shigeru, who gives him a new name: Takeo. Under the tutelage of Shigeru, Takeo learns that he too possesses the skills of the Tribe. And, with this knowledge, he embarks on a journey that will lead him to his own unimaginable destiny …

Even though it does seem a little overdrawn in the cold light of the computer screen, I like this. And it worked on me because I bought the book. In contrast, the blurb for the, hugely successful, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson is a real turn off:

“I want you to find out who in the family murdered Harriet, and who since then has spent almost forty years trying to drive me insane”
The Industrialist
Henrik Vanger, head of the dynastic Vanger Corporation, is tormented by the loss of a child decades earlier and convinced that a member of his family has committed murder.
The Journalist
Mikael Blomkvist delves deep into the Vangers’ past to uncover the truth behind the unsolved mystery. But someone else wants the past to remain a secret and will go to any lengths to keep it that way.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Lisbeth Salander, the enigmatic, delinquent and dangerous security specialist, assists in the investigation. A genius computer hacker, she tolerates no restriction placed upon her by individuals, society or the law.

To me, this is absurdly dramatic and the characters sound as though they are all tossers… but I enjoyed the book.

Because The Light Heart of Stone is a fantasy novel, I decided to try and conform to the genre. These are the versions so far:
When rocks no longer speak clearly and the bounty of the Indidjiny homeland begins to wither in the fields, eleven year-old Fox and the eighty-four-year-old Oak Companion meet under the canvas roof of a testing tent. A blood touch, a jolt of raw talent and Fox is wrenched from her family, forcibly adopted into the famous Oak clan, and thrust into the slow culture of the city of Komey. Fox’s adoption should signal a life of bound motherhood, but nothing is as it seems. The Companionaris’ ability to grow plants and breed animals is failing, a murderous ambition has been sparked and must be stopped, and there is a stirring of old magic in the air.

Eleven-year-old Fox lives in Kelp province where her father is the Indidjiny keeper of the land and sea. When the eighty-four-year-old Oak Companion arrives to test the camp’s children for talent, Fox finds herself wrenched from her family, forcibly adopted into the famous Oak clan, and thrust into the slow culture of the city of Komey. Fox’s adoption should signal a life of bound motherhood aimed at returning her talent to its rightful owners, but nothing is as it seems. The Companionaris’ ability to grow plants and breed animals is failing, a murderous ambition has been sparked, and there is a stirring of old magic in the air.
A gift for testing Indidjiny girls for illicit talent sees the eighty-four-year-old Oak Companion touch palms with eleven-year-old Fox. A jolt of heat is all it will take for Fox to be claimed by the city of Komey, allowing the elderly Oak Companion to return to her province in peace. But Fox’s talent generates something different: a compassionate decision, a chance encounter, the exchange of a sentient stone, and the promotion of a relative. Taken together, these small acts are enough to spark everything off: murder, rebellion, transformation, and the possibility for a different future.

When rocks no longer speak clearly and the bounty of the Indidjiny homeland begins to wither in the fields, eleven year-old Fox and the eighty-four-year-old Oak Companion meet under the canvas roof of a testing tent. A blood touch and a jolt of raw talent seem to presage nothing more than Fox’s forced adoption into the slow culture of the Companionaris. But an act of compassion and a chance encounter are enough to spark a forbidden association and a murderous ambition.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Self-Publishing Track

I came reluctantly to the idea of self-publishing my fantasy novel, The Light Heart of Stone.

In 2010, I had my manuscript with a couple of big Australian publishers. Even before I had my first rejection, I suspected the speculative and anthropological style of my fantasy (no dark romance, dragons or royalty) wasn’t going to be an easy fit with a mainstream fantasy publisher’s list.

After two rejections, I sat back and contemplated sending the book out again. One of the rejections had been very encouraging, but that didn’t mean I wanted to continue the arduous process of submitting and waiting and waiting and waiting.

I took stock. I’d worked in publishing so knew a bit about the book industry. The Light Heart of Stone is the type of fantasy that I like reading so I suspected that there would be readers out there who agreed with me. And I had some confidence in my writing because I had already had fourteen books published and had contributed to a number of others. (In case you’re wondering, my publication history comprises a weird combination of non-fiction about heavy social issues such as youth homelessness and twelve teen romances).

I began working on the idea of self-publishing after the second rejection. I bought Euan Mitchell’s excellent book Self-Publishing Made Simple. I registered the name of my imprint Curious Crow Books (love it!) and bought a couple of domain names. Next, I found the wonderful Helen Hunter to edit my manuscript. Then I started working on cover concepts. Even so, I still hadn’t committed: not really. I was yet to hear from the third publisher who had had the manuscript for almost six months (but six months is nothing compared to Andrea K Höst’s experience).

Finally, the rejection email arrived. I felt strangely liberated. I realised I was looking forward to self-publishing The Light Heart of Stone – felt excited about the idea.

I’m going to blog about the process – maybe write the odd book/art review. So welcome to the new blog.
Self-portrait in Spacesuit at Uluru by Tor Roxburgh Copyright 2010